The Justine Winter Case

As the mother of teenagers as I watched (and researched) a show on this case and was truly touched.  I always try to remember when my own teenagers react to things that I too was once a teenager and just how "traumatic" everything seemed to be.  As with most parents I also tend to remember how as a teenager I did not have technology and things that are available to teens now days.  


This case is a story of texting and driving, but it is also so much more.  On March 19, 2009 in Montana, 16 year old Justine Winter was arguing with her boyfriend through text messaging when she crossed the center line in her vehicle and hit a car containing pregnant wife and mother, Erin Thompson and her 13 year old son Caden Odell.  


The argument had started over something stupid, at least by adult standards. It was over the fact that her boyfriend, Ryan discovered Justine had dated a friend of his in the past and he was jealous.  Throughout the text messages she stated she was going to crash her car and/or kill herself.  Again, teenage "trauma."  Soon after her last text she crossed the center line and ran into Erin's car.


The person driving behind Erin saw it all.  Thankfully, for him, he was apparently at a good enough distance that he was not injured.  He pulled to the side of the road and immediately first ran to Justine's car.  She was critically injured and the actions of the other driver likely saved her life.  Erin was alive for a short period after the accident but died on the scene, as did apparently her son, Caden.


Justine spent 7 weeks in the ICU.  She was also being charged with intentional homicide.  Police had not only recreated what happened but they also had the text messages from her phone. Prosecutors theorized that Justine crossed the center line on purpose in her attempts to commit suicide based on those text messages.


Personally I do not believe that to be the case.  I simply think this was a situation where she was speeding, going through a construction area at that, and simply playing more attention to her phone than she was to the road.  Eventually she was convicted and received 30 years in prison.  I have to say that I do feel sorry for her when it comes to the term, not that she should not have gotten time, but for something that 5 years from now she would discover how "petty" and stupid it was. 


You would think that was all the story. Yeah, well it's not.  One of the most outrageous thing happened before her trial.  In July 2009, her family, on her behalf, filed suit against the county (for the construction) but also against Erin's family.  Within the suit they were asking for medical bills (past, present and future), and loss of potential income among other things.  This was after it was already determined that she was texting while she was driving, had witnesses and also accident reconstruction had prove it to be her fault.  Of course as in any case there is always someone out there that will say differently and this case was no different.  The defense had one witness who theorized that Erin crossed the line.  That theory was dismissed.  The case was dismissed after Justine's conviction.


The one other thing to note was the lack of remorse from Justine.  I can totally sympathize with the fact that with her head injuries she has no memory of the accident.  That is understandable.  Erin and Caden's family only asked that Justine own up to what happened and apologize.  When she was on the stand at her sentencing hearing her lawyers attempted to get this from Justine.... whether it was to gander sympathy from the judge to receive a lower sentence, who knows.  At any rate she would not say she was sorry for the accident, in essence saying because she couldn't remember what happened she couldn't say she was sorry.







Comments

  1. She couldn't apologize because the civil case was still pending during her sentencing in the criminal trial. An apology can be used as evidence in court against a defendant--it's often treated as an admission of guilt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fact is there should never have been a civil suit. When did it become OK not to do the right thing? She was at fault, she knows she was. She took three lives and left a devastated family. The context of the text messages leaves it crystal clear that she was suicidal. And if she crashed because she was texting (and was not committing suicide) she is still just as guilty. She should have done the right thing and ask forgiveness, not sue the victims. She is pathetic and I hope she does the hardest time there is to do. Grow up America, take responsibility for your mistakes, no matter how big or childish they are.

      Delete
    2. The sad thing is she only wound up doing 4 years for killing a pregnant mother and her 13 year old boy and unborn child. She only admitted guilt and said she was sorry for what she did at her parole hearing and that's only because it benefited her. Regardless if there was a civil case pending if were in fact sorry she would have expressed that to the family who literally begged her to just give them that! In my opinion she's a spoiled little brat that didn't get her way with her boyfriend and caused the death of a beautiful younge family and devastated many. I believe in forgiveness but I must say, if that were my family she killed (whether she meant to or not, and no one knows that answer) I would find it hard to forgive her considering she wouldn't even give that poor man a proper apology. We'll she's free now. Although she was only 16 years old when this happened, I believe she was old enough to see the heart break and pain in that man's eyes as he begged her to "own it" and "just apologize", she knew the right thing to do was really and truly apologize. I just hope she feels pain and remorse for what she did and can truly value life as she lives hers. So sad

      Delete
    3. It’s sad how judgmental the world is. We assume we know what happened because we read an article or we watched a special. Teenagers say and do crazy things all the time. She may or may not have been suicidal and she may or may not have caused the accident on purpose. It’s not our place to judge. We weren’t there, but I’m amazed at all of the perfect people in this world with perfect children who have never done anything stupid or wreckless.

      Delete
  2. There was no civil case pending - hers against the Thompson estate had been dismissed.

    Nor would her apology been necessarily construed as an admission of guilt. In fact, the prosecutor was trying to direct to her to say it in a manner that wouldn't hurt her chances for an appeal or in case the Thompsons decided to sue for wrongful death.

    From what I saw, everyone was trying to give the kid a break but she didn't get the message. Nor do I buy that it was her attorneys' fault - they can't defend themselves very easily against former clients trying to minimize their own responsibility and bad judgement.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This young woman suffered a traumatic brain injury and has no memory of the incident. Perhaps the reason "she didn't get the message" is because she can't get the message. What a tragic accident compounded by revenge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you kidding revenge??? She would have faced charges from the county like anyone regardless of her memory or lack of, her parents did her a disservice by helping her deny responsibility when she awoke from four day induced coma, if they had encouraged the truth she would have been tried as a minor. She is lucky to be away from her sick family who encouraged her denial and lying they are the reason she is in prison, the victims family just wanted her to get help

      Delete
    2. This is true and my parents would've have never let me think I wasn't at fault. The worst part was them suing the other family. If my lawyers told me to do that I would not. How cruel.

      Delete
  4. This blog has seen a lot of traffic and I suspect there will be more considering the 20/20 episode recently re-aired.

    I have to disagree that this was 'compounded by revenge.' This was about justice and accountability. Whether one wants to believe she was in fact attempting suicide or whether one wants to believe that she was simply not paying attention to her driving and the road, the reality is that two people lost their lives.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I hope she gets out of prison and starts a new life for herself. She will be young enough to have children and I hope she does. Then some dark night while she's driving home with her family I hope some teenager purposely crashes into her car, killing her and her children. Stupid Girl, there are far better ways to kill yourself. Maybe while in prison she will discover one..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is terrible. Her children shouldn't pay for her actions.

      Delete
    2. Gotta AGREE with the op here........that would be justice....cruel, but just.

      Delete
    3. this girl knows what she did wrong it was in her text it showed this girl should not be allowed out and be able to have a life as she took 3 lives not only the other lady and her son but her unborn child , why should she be able to go on and have children and have a live after her prison time while this lady's husband has to live every day with out his wife and children she needs to not be able to enjoy her life no matter how young she is why should she have fun , have a career , a husband or children

      Delete
  6. She should apologize to Erin's family. And so should Justine's family.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Every person has made stupid mistakes as a teenager, ones that could have put us all in similar circumstances! She probably doesn't understand why she should apologize due to her brain injuries! I have a special needs child with brain injuries and it's amazing and frustrating how much she just doesn't understand. Both families have suffered terrible loses, don't judge other people unless you are in that situation yourself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True about the brain injuries but the parents still could have encouraged an apology and not to sue. My sister has brain injuries so I know what you mean. However it doesn't excuse not making a simple apology.

      Delete
  8. justine was and remained after the crime a 4.0 student,none of the victims families wanted revenge, we only wanted justine to take responsibility for her actions and get help.sadly her family chose dishonesty over truth and that gamble is why she will be in prison until shes 23 which is only four more years, had she cooperated and been honest with the early investigation she would have been tried as a juvenile and probably gotten community service and probation, her family story of denial lying and minimizing her actions are a prime example of how things get worse when you blame others.after trying to blame the road, or the weather or even the police or over zealous prosecution, they decided to sue the victim, she wad dead what could she do?? All of these actions made things worse in the end now justine is unhappy with about two years for each death, mother son and unborn child, hopefully one day she will own her part in this and get the message that the truth will set you free we forgave her from the beginning,hope she can forgive herself one day before she gets back on the road or in a relationship.lets hope she does some growing up in the next four years, good luck justine

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Im sorry but you all are very forgiving people. I wish to be that way because i know thats how God wants us to be. But for me, the way she sat there and didnt apologize, didnt show ANY remorse, made me see red!! Brain injuries my ass who do she think sent those suicidal texts before the crash?? She did! So her little disrespectful a** deserve every bit of that time. She actually deserve way more time! That no apology pissed me right the hell off and i wish i could have been the judge. You crash into a unknown vehicle because you cant control your stupid emotions, and kill a innocent beautiful family! You wanted to die! Not them! She should have died!

      Delete
  9. I'm new to this case. It's unfathomable to me the loss of this beautiful family because of this idiot girl and her idiot family. They and their lawyers should only suffer as much as Erin and Caden's families. Also, THREE people lost their lives that day. Mercy is for the deserving. The victims got no mercy from Justine; she deserves NO mercy.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It is so sad to see the vindictive and vengeful comments here. This girl was 16 years old at the time of the crash and acting like an idiot. It could have been that she did cross the center line (in a construction zone, that on the Dateline program seemed to have no painted line), on purpose to kill herself with complete disregard for anyone else she might hurt. But it is also possible that she was very upset over something stupid, was texting stupid threats that she did not intend on carrying through, went through a confusing construction zone and crashed. The point is that either way we will never know for certain because she does not remember the incident or even much of the day. Everyone agrees on this point, even the prosecutor, she does not remember because of her brain injury. Can you imagine going to prison for years for something you cannot even remember? Yet the calls for revenge and punishment, even her death are everywhere. What would we have done to get revenge if she had actually died that night? The families of the victims who are actually living without their loved ones and with the constant pain and loss are able to be understanding and even forgiving. The prosecutor should have taken into account both her brain injury and the fact that her parents and lawyers were at fault for the lawsuit and telling her she should not apologize, and he should have filed lesser charges. I don't fault the prosecutor for wanting some penalty because of the available evidence, but not 15 years in prison.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sixteen is old enough to realize that your actions have consequences - sometimes deadly consequences. Every school system in the country shows films of deadly accidents to students approaching drivers license age. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of television programs every year replaying similar tragedies. She was a 4.0 student so she's not stupid.

      I don't believe for a second that her memory is impaired nor do I believe it was an accident. She was a willful teenager without a shred of concern for the lives of others.

      I was shocked that she only received 15 years for killing two people and destroying so many lives. Young men convicted of similar crimes frequently get life without parole. Once again, a young woman gets a pass solely because she's has a vagina. Disgusting.

      Delete
    2. The thing is sometimes we actually pay a heavy price for stupid mistakes. Justine is out of prison now and on probation for another 10 years. She got lucky. I don't wish any harm to her but I do hope she's learned something about compassion and humility

      Delete
  11. Justine should stay in jail forever! She is a murderer. Here father is an ass as well...The justice system failed him...Bullcrap, your kid is a murderer! You failed in bringing her up.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The best thing to do is let her do her time and whenever she gets out just let her live her life. I'm sure the thought of what she did in the past will torture her mind forever. That's eternal punishment. She will never have a normal life again. This is the saddest thing ever. People need to not judge her or show anger towards her, instead they need to forget about her. I didnt say forgive her, just forget her. Don't torture your minds with her evil.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I agree with Jennifer Lender. What happened cannot be changed and all we can do is forget. Its a very sad thing, but what can be done about it? Sending Justine to jail forever wouldnt accomplish much. She will live with the guilt forever. Thats enough punishment. I for one wish i never knew about what Justine did. It tortures my mind and i really hope i forget about this tragedy someday... cruel world we live in..

    ReplyDelete
  14. If it were my wife and kid that she killed, I don't think anything would be able to stop me from killing her. I would just see red and tear her to pieces. I can understand why there is so much hate for her. Its a terrible ordeal altogether, but she really should've gotten life in prison or at least the whole thirty years of her sentence should be served without parole or something. 7.5 years is bullshit to say the least for her heinous actions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel the same way. And the fact her and the family is lying would piss me off more. She is a murderer and nothing could bring this family back. Smh I would be in jail if it was my family.

      Delete
    2. Agreed. It's notable that the women posting here don't think this killer should be held accountable for her actions. It's time for women to join the human race and "woman up" to accepting responsibility for their actions and stop expecting a pussy pass every time they break the law.

      Delete
    3. I agree. The way she sat there and didnt apology and showed no remorse made me even madder. She crash her car into a unknown vehicle because she cant control her stupid emotions. Killed a beautiful family when SHE'S THE ONE THAT WANTED TO DIE!! It makes me so mad when i think about that! Brain injuries my ass. She knew those suicidal text msgs came from her phone so for her not to apologize means she is a stupid, selfish, disrespectful, little b*tch! I hope her idiotic parents are going through it while her ass sits in jail! 7.5 years. So she gets a chance to live her life but Erin and her two children didnt get a chance to live theirs. The justice system is a joke!!

      Delete
  15. Of course, the death of two people-by all accounts angels on earth-is simply dreadful.
    People are commenting and forgetting two major facts: (1) she was just 16. (2) she had a severe TBI. TBI's do many things to distort reality. Of course, all responsibility lies with her, and she should simply take full responsibility and apologize with no excuses. Her attorneys were negligent in not researching the TBI literature in explaining her after accident behavior. More and more is being learned about the impact of TBI on moral choices and behavior. Unless we know and understand exactly what injuries she suffered, we simply can't judge her post injury actions. Read about the "moral neural network" and try not to judge without full knowledge.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I cannot begin to imagine or describe how the victim's family must feel.. that was really heartbreaking story. Either way it was her fault, but whether it was intentional or on accident will be forever unclear. I don't really think arguing or saying hateful comments is making anything better! In all essence God knows whether is was intentional or non-intended , and she will have to answer to him! She will have to go the rest of her life not kmowing what happened that day, but knowing she was the cause of three beautiful peoples lives, as well as the hearts of every loved one in the victims family. She has been well punished. Can you imagine killing three people and not knowing why or how? Not remembering even doing it, but knowing you did because the evidence supports it. I cannot! I also cannot imagine my children, mother, wife, etc.. being killed so young either! The family of the victims are selfless and amazing people, because I could not have held my composure as well as they did. I feel for every person involved.. even the parents of the girl, and even the defense attornies. I know when you have children they become the most important thing in the world.. yes their decisions were a little bit irrational, but they were just doing what they thought was best for their kid. Their daughters whole life was at stake.. they may not have made the best choice is on their daughters behalf but they only tried to do what they thought was right for her. And as for the defense attorneys... they were only doing their job! They get paid to defend their client, is though it is not the best job in the world.. but somebody has to do it.. and i know that the victims only want justice! They only want what's right. But that's the prosecutors job.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Justine should have to serve all 30 yrs. Nothing suspended. Erin and caden and the unborn baby didn't get a suspended sentence. In all honesty. They should have let her die. Stupid girl

    ReplyDelete
  18. All the family asked was her to take responsibility and she or her parents did not. She is a liar and call me cruel but I don't believe she don't remember shit. She tried to kill herself and took a family life instead and she need to own up to it. I don't feel sorry for her family because they enabled her to lie. I hope she never has a happy day from this forth on and no that she is a MURDERER. YOU JUSTINE SHOULD HAVE DIED.This was my family friends you took and they did not deserve it. And that boyfriend you had has gone on with his life while your dumb ass ruined yours. Smh you are stupid and I hope you see their faces for the rest of your life.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Nor do I agree that she has memory loss. She's lying. There is no way medical science can prove she has memory loss due to a Traumatic Brain Injury. In most cases I've read, permanent memory loss only occurs following a significant period in a coma, or, there is other evidence of TBI like impairment of speech or motor skills. She had none of those. She's lying. She's a murderer.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I completely agree she should take responsibility for her actions whether she remembers or not. She was speeding and texting while driving which caused the deaths of innocent people.
    I cannot say for sure if she remembers or not, but I can say for certain that memory loss after traumatic accidents can and DOES occur.
    I was in a terrible car accident over 20 years ago and was in the ICU for 5 weeks. Somehow, luckily, I did not have any brain damage, but to this day, I still have no recollection of the events leading up to my accident or for about a month afterward. My 1st memory is being in ICU I believe about 4 weeks after the accident occurred.
    I am very sorry for the victims family and can't imagine what they are feeling or going through! And I am in no way condoning what she did........but I just wanted to point out, from personal experience, the memory loss could be real.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you on all counts. The memory loss could be absolutely real and she remembers nothing. My husband had a diving accident and the same thing occurred to him. But as you said, memory loss or not she should be taking responsibility for her actions.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Matthew Heikkila

The Quinn Hanna Gray Kidnapping

Patricia Rorrer